Satisfaction Factor

#29 - Finding Your Eating Persona: The Professional Dieter

April 13, 2022 Naomi Katz & Sadie Simpson
Satisfaction Factor
#29 - Finding Your Eating Persona: The Professional Dieter
Show Notes Transcript

This week, we're continuing our 4 episode mini-series on the eating personas with a look at The Professional Dieter.  The Professional Dieter is someone who has tried many weight loss programs (Noom, WW, Keto, Whole 30), thinks a lot about what they “should” be doing to lose weight, has lost, gained, and lost the same X pounds multiple times, may be someone who regularly has cheat meals/cheat days, and knows the calories, points, or portion sizes for many foods. In this episode we discuss: the difference between being anti-diet culture vs. anti-people-who-diet; the health impacts of weight cycling or yo-yo dieting; the overlap between chronic dieting & disordered eating; and some tools for breaking out of the Professional Dieter mentality.

You can stay up to date on all things Satisfaction Factor by following us on IG @satisfactionfactorpod!

Here's where you can get all the info about Sadie's free Intro to Intuitive Eating workshop at the Black Mountain YMCA!

Here's where you can sign up for Naomi's 1:1 Intuitive Eating coaching waitlist!

Here's where to find more info about us:
Sadie Simpson: www.sadiesimpson.com or IG @thesadiesimpson
Naomi Katz: www.happyshapes.co or IG @happyshapesnaomi

For this episode's transcript, visit: www.satisfactionfactorpod.com

Naomi Katz:

Welcome to Satisfaction Factor, the podcast where we explore how ditching diet culture makes our whole lives more satisfying. Welcome back to Satisfaction Factor. I'm Naomi Katz, an Intuitive Eating, body image, and self trust coach.

Sadie Simpson:

And I'm Sadie Simpson, a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, and Intuitive Eating counselor. Right now we're in episode three of a four episode mini series breaking down the four eating personas as they are outlined in the Intuitive Eating framework. Before getting into today's eating persona, a quick reminder that as you're listening to this, and if you recognize something that you relate to, or something you want to dig deeper and learn more about, and kind of tease out and work through, Naomi and I both offer Intuitive Eating coaching programs. And right now, for the local folks- so if you live in or around the Asheville, North Carolina area- I'm going to be offering a free in person live Intro to Intuitive Eating workshop on April 19 at 5:30pm. This will be held at the Black Mountain YMCA. And if you would like more information about that, just send me a message on Instagram @satisfactionfactorpod and I can share that with you. And after that, I'll also be starting an in person 12 week Intuitive Eating workshop in May. This will also be local and in person, and I'll be talking a little bit more about that on next week's episode. But if you want more information about that now, you can also message me about that on Instagram as well.

Naomi Katz:

Awesome, I'm so excited that that's going to be something available for local folks here. And I also offer one to one Intuitive Eating coaching. However, I am at the moment restructuring how I offer that option. So if you want to be the first to know when I open that back up again, and what that new structure looks like, you can go ahead and get on the waitlist for one to one coaching, which will be at the link that I put in the show notes. And we'll put information to Sadie's workshop options in the show notes as well.

Sadie Simpson:

Today we're going to be talking about the professional dieter eating persona. And before really diving in, it's important to remember that what we're sharing here in this episode, and throughout this whole four episode series, isn't meant as a way to judge yourself. It's definitely not meant as a way for us to judge you, or anybody out there, or to put anybody in a box, but is more of an awareness tool. So when you're listening to this series, you might recognize that you have more than one eating style or embodying more than one eating persona. Or you might recognize, too, that you might identify with a different eating style at various seasons or various times in your life. So if you're just tuning into this series, I'll give you a really quick rundown of what the four eating personas are, just for some context, so that you can go back and listen to some of the previous episodes if you'd like to learn more about the other types. The careful eater is somebody who might be overly conscious of food. They might be someone who others view as living a, quote unquote, healthy lifestyle, but in actuality, they tend to be very preoccupied with things like food, and nutrition, and eating. The next eating persona, which we talked about last week, was the unconscious eater, which consists of four subtypes- the chaotic eater, the refuse not eater, the waste not eater, and the emotional eater. Today, we're gonna be chatting about the professional dieter. So just, spoiler alert, it's pretty self explanatory. There's some nuance that we'll get into in just a minute. And then the last eating persona, which we'll talk about next week, is the intuitive eater.

Naomi Katz:

Another sort of disclaimer, possibly, that we want to throw in here before we dive into like really talking about the nuances of the professional dieter persona is that we are in no way anti people who diet here. And I think we've talked a little bit about this in other episodes too. When we talk about being anti diet, we are anti diet culture. Obviously we're going to talk about why someone who is a professional dieter might want to explore Intuitive Eating, and break that diet cycle, and stuff like that, but it's in no way a judgement about people who identify with professional dieters. So like we're anti diet professionals. We are not anti professional dieter persona professionals.

Sadie Simpson:

That is a a mouthful of words that start with a P.

Naomi Katz:

It was, it really was. And I actually am kind of proud that I got it all out in one shot. So yeah, you know, when we talk about being anti diet culture, we're really really talking about the oppressive systems that diet culture holds up. We're talking about system profiting off our insecurities, and pitting us against each other, and prioritizing personal responsibility, and appearance, and stuff like that, and kind of like embodying anti fat bias, and healthism, and ableism, and white supremacy, and like all of these things that are wrapped up within the culture of diet culture. But we approach being anti diet culture through compassion, and informed choices, and autonomy, and community, and inclusion, and stuff like that. And all of those things include people who identify as professional dieters. So, you know, just sort of want to throw that out there before we dive into, like, what is a professional dieter.

Sadie Simpson:

Yes, thanks for clarifying that. So let's move on and discuss some characteristics of the professional dieter as it's outlined in the Intuitive Eating framework. And just a little, like, personal anecdotes, and some nuances, and things to consider that might not necessarily be discussed within the book Intuitive Eating, that is more practical, and things that we've noticed as Intuitive Eating professionals over the last couple of years too. Someone who embodies the professional dieter persona would be someone who has tried many or all of the mainstream weight loss programs or diets, so things like Weight Watchers, or WW, or Noom, Paleo, Keto, Whole 30, like all the things. If there is a book about it, or a commercial about it, or social media ads about it, or Dr. Oz has talked about it, then a professional dieter has probably done it. So an interesting thing to know about professional dieters is that, often, they may treat dieting kind of like a hobby. So when you think of something like a hobby, or regular activity that you do, or maybe even something that you collect outside of your job, outside of your occupation, sometimes dieting can mimic that. So when we participate in hobbies, whether we're doing it solo or with a group of people, they tend to follow some trends. So like cultural trends, or social trends, or regional and location specific. Like specifically here, in western North Carolina, a lot of people have hobbies related to doing outdoor activities, like hiking, or biking, or kayaking. So that's like just a location specific example I'm thinking of.

Naomi Katz:

Every time I think of this dieting as kind of like a hobby, I think of Mindy Kaling. And so like, I don't know if you've ever read any of her books, but in one of them- I think it's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, but I'm not certain of that- but in one of them, she actually talks about how she loves trying new diets, that like trying new diets is her hobby, basically. And so that's just what I picture every time I picture this, like, professional diet kind of persona.

Sadie Simpson:

Yeah. Oh my gosh, I have not read that, but that feels very representative of this, for sure. Well, when you think about hobbies, especially like a collecting type of hobby, a lot of folks collect weight loss or dieting resources. So food tracking apps, or fitness trackers, and pedometers, and books, and magazines, and products like shakes and teas, and portion control containers, and gadgets, and gear, and workout equipment that is very diet culture driven, like the ThighMaster or the Gazelle. Like do you remember the Tony Little Gazelle? I used to watch that infomercial all the time.

Naomi Katz:

Oh my god, I don't even know what that is.

Sadie Simpson:

-collect all this stuff. After this is over, you're gonna have to look it up on YouTube. Tony Little Gazelle is a really- that's a fun one.

Naomi Katz:

Excellent.

Sadie Simpson:

Yeah. But we collect this stuff, especially when we're in diet culture- like it just feels like a thing that we have to do, and that is a part of a hobby. And another thing, when you think about connecting dieting to hobbies, is participating in activities. So trying out the newest, hottest, coolest, trendiest diet is definitely an activity, and a lot of times we do that because of the social aspect, because other people are doing it. So maybe people in our workplaces are trying some sort of new weight loss program, so we want to feel connected, and we may try that with them. And I think it's important to recognize, too, that there's a common experience associated with participating in weight loss diets. So when you think about these groups, or these social experiences, like a Weight Watchers meeting, or any other type of program that you have kind of the support group aspect, it gives us this opportunity to connect with other people that we have something in common with, so a common experience or even a common interest. And, yeah, it's definitely kinda like a hobby.

Naomi Katz:

Yeah, although I do feel like we should note that- because we've mentioned this before- that a lot of times the connection- the quote unquote connection- that we feel like we get out of participating in the these like diets, and weight loss programs, and stuff like that, are like not really connection. It's more like competition, or, you know, something like that. But it doesn't really allow for like a deeper level of connection like we might actually want in our personal relationships.

Sadie Simpson:

Right. Well, and something else to think about too, with the professional dieter, and honestly with a lot of people that I've worked with over the years in various settings, whether it is through the Intuitive Eating framework, or as a personal training client, group exercise class participant, a lot of people don't realize, especially if they have been dieting for a long time, that not dieting is an option.

Naomi Katz:

Yes, absolutely. That is true. I actually have posted a couple of times on my Instagram at this point, like just a post that basically says you actually don't have to diet. And it's amazing how many people connect with that as a message of like, oh, yeah, I guess I don't, like I guess that actually is an option.

Sadie Simpson:

Another characteristic of the professional dieter persona is that folks who identify with this eating style tend to constantly be thinking about what they, quote unquote, should be doing to lose weight. You might hear someone who is a professional dieter say things like, I've been bad, or I've got to get back on track, or I should eat this salad instead of eating this pizza, or something like that. And along those same lines, someone who is a professional dieter may have a tendency to view exercise as punishment. So there is usually a strong connection of movement being simply a means to burn calories, or to earn food, or to make up for eating, or something like that. And I think a lot of that stems from something like Weight Watchers, where you earn points for exercising, or like in My Fitness Pal, you are allotted more calories if you exercise. And that makes it really challenging for people to disconnect this idea of exercise versus eating, and also makes it really challenging for folks to find some sort of joyful, or tolerable, or purposeful movement, because exercise has been associated as punishment for a really long time.

Naomi Katz:

Yeah, the way that diets frame exercise as like burning food- literally, like the math changes- is really problematic in terms of how we relate to that stuff going forward. I also just want to say how I find it so interesting that part of the persona of being a professional dieter is not following the diet- is that I need to get back on track or I've been bad concept- and like how telling that is about why diets don't work in the first place.

Sadie Simpson:

Well, that's a good point too, because another characteristic of the professional dieter, which is similar to what we talked about in the careful eater persona, a professional dieter may be someone who regularly has cheat meals or cheat days. Again, we talked a lot about the restrict-binge cycle in the careful eater episode, but it shows up again here. And I think two things to note about this cycle, especially with the professional dieter, one, is that often this diet all week, cheat meal on the weekend, or cheat day on the weekend thing happens because folks tend to be in a literal low caloric intake. They tend to be in a calorie deficit from dieting all week, so biologically, the body is hungry and needs food. It needs calories at the end of the week.

Naomi Katz:

That's a really good point. And it's one of the ways where this can differ from the careful eater restrict-binge cycle, where you- you know, sometimes with the careful eater, it's just the mental restriction of having certain foods be off limits, whereas with the professional dieter, it's often actually a biological, physical, like physiological reaction to restriction.

Sadie Simpson:

Yes, like your body is saying you need food, you need to eat. And that was gonna be kind of the second point, too, because there still is sometimes that mental aspect of restricting and rebelling that we see with the careful eater. But I do think a lot of it is this like biological hunger that happens with professional dieters.

Naomi Katz:

Yeah, well, especially when you think about how things like Weight Watchers, for instance, is structured, which is that you can eat whatever you want, as long as it fits within your points, but that those points are specifically structured to put you in a calorie deficit. So like, maybe you are eating whatever types of foods you want, but you're definitely not eating enough of them.

Sadie Simpson:

Yeah. Well, I think that's a good segue into the next characteristic of a professional dieter, is the idea of weight cycling, or yo yo dieting. Often you'll hear someone who is a professional dieter say something along the lines of, I've lost the same X amount of pounds over and over and over again.

Naomi Katz:

Yeah, that's a really important thing to talk about. Because weight cycling or yo yo dieting has like some really significant impacts, like some really significant like physiological health impacts on us. So while it may be frustrating to gain and lose the same X pounds over and over again, more importantly, it's like not good for us.

Sadie Simpson:

Yeah.

Naomi Katz:

So there's been a wide variety of studies, beginning, I think, as far back as like 20 years ago, that show that weight cycling and yo yo dieting are very strongly associated with things like high blood pressure, and chronic inflammation, and coronary heart disease, and metabolic disruption, and stuff like that. Which- side note- you might notice are a lot of the things that are actually blamed on fatness. It's really important to think about who is most likely a professional dieter. It's people in larger bodies. They've literally been dieting since they were children most of the time. And so like this weight cycling process tends to impact them the most. And so this is what we call a confounding factor, in terms of, you know, can we really say that these health outcomes are caused by fatness, or they may be caused by the weight cycling that people in larger bodies are encouraged, like told, by medical professionals to do all of their lives. The other thing that happens is that the more we like lose and regain weight, the more likely we are to develop a sense of learned helplessness because of our inability to like maintain our weight based goals. So what that results in is this feeling that like there's no point in practicing healthy behaviors at all, since it doesn't lead to the weight loss that we're striving for all the time. And so that also has negative health outcomes. Because if you're not practicing healthy behaviors at all anymore, because you feel like you're not going to lose weight from them- like obviously, healthy behaviors are good for your health. We always say health is not an obligation. If health is not a priority for you, if health is not accessible to you, all of these things, like that's fine. Nobody owes anybody health. And if you are pursuing health, it's really important to know that doing something that's going to result in this weight cycling and this yo yo dieting is probably doing the exact opposite of what you're going for. And that doing it over and over again also tends to decrease your desire to want to do other healthy behaviors.

Sadie Simpson:

Yes, that is such a good point, because it's so hard to disconnect the idea of health from weight loss, especially for a professional dieter, because that's just what they have been told. That's what we've all been told forever and ever and ever- that health equals losing weight. So another characteristic of the professional dieter is that a lot of folks who identify with this eating persona automatically know the calories, or the carbs, or the portions, or the points for a lot of foods. And this is something that I have done a lot, actually, with some of the folks I've worked with- doing some work around untangling associated, automated, automatic values with foods, especially foods that are commonly assumed to be, quote unquote, junk, or bad, or cheats when you're following a specific diet plan. Because when you have like these calorie values drilled into your mind for so long, it can be really challenging to let go of that- even subconsciously, like, we still do it sometimes- portion control, and calorie control, and that sort of thing, because we just know these numbers so deeply, like they're so deeply ingrained in our minds.

Naomi Katz:

Yeah, I definitely see that coming up, too, especially around when we start to cover things like making peace with food, and we started looking at like what foods you're restricting, and stuff like that. And that a lot of times what that shows up as is, okay, maybe they'll go to the restaurant, and they'll eat out, but there are certain foods that they always order without even thinking about it, because they know the calorie content, or the points, or whatever. And ordering- like it doesn't even occur to them to order something else off the menu because like this is- it's like autopilot. It's just, these are the things that I know, and it feels safe, and so I always order the same things. And so like part of the work can sometimes be try ordering something that you don't know the calorie count of, you know, and just see how that feels.

Sadie Simpson:

Yeah, yeah. And that can feel really scary for some people. It can feel very liberating for other people. And we say this all the time- working through the Intuitive Eating framework is not a one size fits all approach, and everybody is going to make shifts slightly differently. But I think that's a really specific and good thing to practice, if you find yourself in that mode of only sticking to the same safe foods, because it feels scary, maybe to venture out to try different things that you don't know the calories, or the carbs, or whatever.

Naomi Katz:

Yeah. This, by the way, is also one of the reasons why I am such an adamant believer that like your everyday person doesn't need a nutrition coach, or to tweak their nutrition, or anything. It's because they know all- like we all know all of this stuff from dieting all our lives. Like- and so, you know, obviously there's exceptions. There's things like, you know, medical nutrition therapy, and there's elite performance athletes, and like there's- there's exceptions to this rule. But your like average Joe on the street probably knows everything they actually need to know about nutrition at this point. Except maybe-

Sadie Simpson:

Probably too much.

Naomi Katz:

Right, exactly. Like I think maybe the one thing they're missing is eat more.

Sadie Simpson:

And so a final thing that we definitely need to hit on while talking about the professional dieter is some of this overlap between chronic dieting and disordered eating.

Naomi Katz:

At least from my perspective- and I suspect you probably agree with this too- I don't actually think there is a difference between chronic dieting and disordered eating. I think chronic dieting is disordered eating.

Sadie Simpson:

Agreed 100%.

Naomi Katz:

Having said that, disordered eating and eating disorders are not the same thing. This- you know- and dieting and eating disorders are not the same thing. But they do all exist on the same spectrum. You know, we're talking about the same behaviors of restriction, obsession about food, hyper focus on food, our bodies, the scale, numbers, whether that's points, or macros, or calories, or whatever. It's got that same disconnection from your biological needs, your body cues, and things like that. Like all of this stuff are hallmarks of dieting, disordered eating, and eating disorders- just on a spectrum of severity and the extent to which they interfere with our life. When we say that chronic dieting is disordered eating, that does not mean that it's always going to progress up the spectrum from disordered eating to an eating disorder. Like just to clarify, we're definitely not saying that that's like a- like a firm thing 100% of the time. But a history of dieting is the strongest predictor for developing an eating disorder. Studies actually show that dieting makes people five to 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than people who don't diet, which is like bonkers. Like, I know that that's a big range, and I think some of that is because it's- some of these studies are like- there's gender differences in the studies, and there's age differences in the studies, and those can make that. But even if we just take that most conservative estimate- that five times more likely to develop an eating disorder- that's still a huge increase, especially when you consider how severe something like an eating disorder really is. You know, we earlier talked about some of the impacts that chronic dieting might have on our physical health, but it's really, really important to think about the impact that this kind of chronic dieting can have on our mental health too.

Sadie Simpson:

If you're listening to this episode, and you identify with any of the characteristics of the professional dieter that we've talked about, we've shared a few things throughout the last 30 minutes that you might want to consider trying, but a few other specific things that you might want to test out, specifically for professional dieters, especially working in an exercise and movement environment, where professional dieters tend to show up pretty regularly, I've found it to be useful to focus on detaching health promoting behaviors from the outcome of weight loss. So specifically talking about not using exercise as a mechanism for weight control, but also looking at improving on other health promoting behaviors, like sleep, or hydration, or stress management, or setting boundaries, and finding ways we can enhance our lives and our health without weight loss being the ultimate outcome.

Naomi Katz:

It's so frustrating, because there's all these apps out there that are meant to help you like, you know, remember to hydrate, and get better sleep, and all of that stuff. And it is amazing how many of them have narrative built into them around weight loss. It's so important to disconnect those behaviors from weight loss, because like drinking enough water is good for you, no matter what the size of your body is, and like, regardless of whether it changes the size of your body. Ditto for sleep, and stress management, and stuff like that. Like these are really important things to do, with nothing to do with weight loss whatsoever.

Sadie Simpson:

Well, and another thing- and we sort of alluded to this a little bit earlier- but breaking up with the scale, because it's very common for professional dieters to also be folks who habitually weigh themselves. So maybe every morning on the scale, or whatever the frequency, as a way to sort of check in or as an accountability tool. And we talked about this in one of the Intuitive Eating episodes before, but it can be really hard for people to step away from the scale because it's comforting for a lot of folks.

Naomi Katz:

Yeah. And I wonder whether, sort of hand in hand with that, and relating to actually what I was just saying about the hydration, and the sleep, and stuff- that maybe just fitness trackers, and apps, and trackers in general can be helpful to also break up with, even if temporarily, just to sort of- especially if we find that we are using them specifically to track these things with a goal of weight loss- like down the road, we might be able to come back to them, and see them as like helpful data for things like that. But sometimes, initially, we need to take a little time away from those things, too.

Sadie Simpson:

For sure. Another thing to try is intentionally breaking some long followed diet rules. Well, like you mentioned earlier, ordering something off the menu that may be different than what you normally order, or considering some other diet rules that maybe you followed for a long time. Specifically, I'm thinking of the one where you can't eat past 7pm. That might be a good one to break that is very commonly assumed to be the Golden Rule among many diet programs.

Naomi Katz:

Mm-hmm. Oh my gosh, I have spoken to people in the past who are like, yeah, I wasn't supposed to eat after 6pm, but like, I didn't even get home from work until 630 or seven. So what they saw this as like that they were constantly breaking this diet rule. And it was like, no, you were eating because you're a human being and you needed to eat food. And so it's just- these diet rules just set us up for failure and guilt. So a lot of times when we're still in that diet mindset, breaking diet rules leads to a lot of guilt and shame. And so taking this approach of intentionally breaking them can really be kind of empowering and reclaim some of that autonomy around this stuff.

Sadie Simpson:

What about you? Is there anything else you would add to this list of ideas that folks could try if they identify with some of these professional dieter characteristics?

Naomi Katz:

The only one I would add is that, especially if we're seeing dieting as a hobby or a way to connect with people, to just start seeking out other ways to connect with people, and other hobbies, especially ones that actually connect us to people, like instead of that sense of like competition, or- or accountability, or whatever that we sometimes- that sometimes characterizes the, quote unquote, connection we find within dieting. But finding stuff where we actually are connecting to people based on like shared experiences, and interests, and values.

Sadie Simpson:

Yeah, I really like that. So that wraps up our discussion on the professional dieter persona. Next week, we'll be talking about the Intuitive Eater, and that will be our last episode in this series. But before we finish, Naomi, what's satisfying for you right now?

Naomi Katz:

This is such like a little thing, and I feel like it's something I'm gonna say at the change of every season, but honestly, I'm really satisfied by the weather right now. We are starting to- things are starting to warm up. We're having these like- these days that are inarguably spring days, and we're starting to see some flowers bloom, and just the weather warm up, and all of that stuff. And I'm really, really enjoying that. My allergies are less than psyched about it, but I'm so happy about it that I don't even care.

Sadie Simpson:

Yes, I'm also loving the spring like weather.

Naomi Katz:

What about you, what's satisfying for you?

Sadie Simpson:

So one of the last things you said was that a great way for professional dieters to sort of break free from that is to potentially find other ways to connect with people, or other hobbies, and that type of thing. I think what is satisfying for me right now are some of the connections we've been able to make as a result of recording this podcast. It's kind of neat to be able to connect, one, with each other on a lot of these topics that we're talking about. And, side note, too, for those who are listening, Naomi and I actually saw each other in person for the first time in months. We record this over Zoom, even though we only live like, I don't know, 15 minutes away from each other. So that was fun. And it just feels good to have real life connections, not only on the internet, but with local people in real life that we've been able to meet and connect with through recording this podcast.

Naomi Katz:

Oh my god, I couldn't agree more. Also, it's so funny. You're like side note, we get to see each other in person for the first time. And I was like, oh my god. That's right. We did that last week. I just- it's so funny. We see each other all the time. Like I feel like we're talking to each other all the time. And so it's funny to think like, oh, yeah, that was a different thing where we actually saw each other in person.

Sadie Simpson:

Yeah, maybe one day we'll- we'll get together and record, but the technology just makes things so easy to like, do it on the computer, but anyway,

Naomi Katz:

Plus it means I can do it in my pajamas, which is nice.

Sadie Simpson:

I mean, you still could if you want it to in person.

Naomi Katz:

Fair point. But yes, 100% I agree with all of that. I like get starting to connect with people through this podcast has been really awesome. And I think one of the most satisfying things about making this podcast at all.

Sadie Simpson:

Yes, so if you are interested in connecting with us, come on over to Instagram we are @satisfactionfactorpod. Be sure to send us a message. Let us know what you think about this episode. Let us know if you feel more connected with yourself and with others as a result of listening to this podcast. We love hearing from you.

Naomi Katz:

Absolutely. And if you would like to support us in another quick and easy way. You can leave us a rating and a review on Apple or Spotify. That helps us reach more people, which means we get to connect with more people that way too.

Sadie Simpson:

Yay. All right. That's it for us this week. We'll see you next time.